I thought I liked him. You know the guy called Spitzer. The legal Rambo. The Sheriff of Wall Street. The big man for the little man. But I really didn’t know much about him. Just what I read in the newspapers and web while in South Africa and in the UK. He wasn’t big news there. Just little bits of news as he took on the big guys. From over there it looked like he was on the side of the little guy. Getting under the skin of big business and anyone with a vested interest or something to hide. A Robin Hood character. What wasn’t there to like. And it looked like New Yorkers agreed with me.
Oh well. Then he had to go and sleep with a hooker. Sorry prostitute. I mean sex worker. (We still don’t have a politically correct word for this old profession). I have to admit I was surprised. I ignored the initial rumours. Thinking that it was just some right winging again. But no. Not this time. He did it and he had to come out with the truth. He paid for sex. So what’s the problem?
If only he was French. The Frogs would have looked at you for a while with squinty eyes while taking a drag of their Gaulloises, shrugged their shoulders, blow a smoke ring nonchalantly, and say Cest La Vie, before taking a sip of a small cup of coffee. For the French it is nothing but a national pastime for politicians. It is something you have to do to qualify as a French politician. You will be seen as a political novice if you don’t have some mistress or prostitute on the side. You know, similar to getting a free lunch or boat paid by a lobbyist in the US. Forget about it being about some lefty thing in France. The current President Sarkozy just got married to another woman. His mistress for the last few years. And he was married to someone else when he got elected. But everyone knew his wife wasn’t his lover. Hell, she was having a relationship with another politician while married to Sarkozy. I don’t know. It must be something to do with the wine and baguettes because they don’t have enough pharmaceuticals in their water to justify all the sex going around in politics. For the French it is just being French. Spitzer would have been seen as a bit of a latecomer – wet behind the ears. His visits to the prostitutes would have been a right of passage. You know. Him getting to grips with politics and a show of force to convince people he is ready to take the next step in his political career. Unfortunately, he isn’t French.
It wouldn’t have gone down well in South Africa though. Yes, the newly elected leader of the ANC in South Africa, Zuma, has a few wives. He is on number five – one died and another divorced him. No wait. It would have been okay in South Africa. We are a conservative bunch in South Africa. All of us, really. But we also know that there are more important things we expect from a leader than how many wives or husbands he or she has. We want them to govern our country with special care. Especially because we have so many things we still need to do to fight poverty – and so little resources to do it with. But there is an even bigger reason why we tolerate it. We know from our history of Apartheid that we have to be tolerant of different cultures and traditions. We are sick and tired of people telling us how we should live our lives according to their principles. Yes, we have to fight injustice, but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t mean a new form of cultural oppression. We are tolerant because we know what happens if you are not. But there is a line that Spitzer would have crossed in South Africa. Prostitution. It is rife in South Africa. But it is seen as a big no-no to be caught – politician or not. You can sleep with family members and friends, but not pay for sex. That just isn’t done. So it wouldn’t be okay in South Africa – sorry it took a while to make up my mind there. South Africa is a complex place full of contradictions. But Spitzer would have been outta there as fast as you can say “zip it up baby“.
It would also be a big no-no in the UK. Those prudes in England don’t like their politicians to be to open in their relationships. Remember, an Englishman’s home is his castle. What goes on behind closed doors is one thing. But it is a no-no to do anything in public – or get caught doing it. Get caught and it’s the end of your career. The only people who can come back from something like this would be a Tory. It’s expected that they would be caught with some leather gear, a whip and a gay lover. But that is only meant to happen at the end of your career. Not when you are on a high.
So the US is not like France. More like the UK? Not really. See, it should be unacceptable for us on the side of the Democrats. Especially for us on the slight left of centre. Why? Because this is what those right-wingers would love to see us do. They wish this upon us. It is not okay to sleep around. It is only okay to make war – not love. We live under different rules than them. Rules they make and rules we make.
The rules they make says that we on the (slightly) left – the liberals – are all about free love and orgies. That’s why youngsters join us – they live in hope. But turn conservative when they get older and realize that it was a false promise. Okay, seriously. They have different rules for us and when something like this happens it is a double whammy for them. They said it was going to happen and it did. Eventually. If it happened to one of them? Just someone who went of the rails a bit. Then we have to forgive them and love them. And suckers that we are – we do. We can’t allow Spitzer to get away with this because it plays into their hands. It allows them to “show” people how promiscuous we are. How morally corrupt we are. It gives them a chance to say, “See, I told you so“. When Spitzer did this he gave them the ammunition to hurt us all and what we stand for. We have to show tolerance when they do it, but we don’t have the luxury to be tolerant when one of our own do it.
Those are the rules we have to live by. We expect more because we know they are looking. We expect less of them because we know how the human mind works. That it is fallible and weak. That it will cave in under all the pressure and seduction of power. We know that this is a human weakness and that is why we should not tolerate it. They don’t acknowledge their own weakness and we know they are therefore bound to fail. But we know better and should therefore be particularly aware of being strong in times of weakness. For us there should be no second chance in the public eye. A second chance in life? Yes – but not in the public eye. At least not now. Maybe once he has shown that he can be trusted with our support and beliefs – but we need time for that to happen.
And there is another more personal reason why we should be outraged. We admired him for always fighting for what was right. Fought for the little guy. We believed that he fought for what was right. But he lived a lie because he didn’t fight for the most important little guy out there. He didn’t fight for his wife and three daughters. His family. Because his family is our family. For that he should go and ask for their forgiveness first. And he should leave and live that forgiveness first.
Hard? Yes. But we don’t have the luxury of second chances right now. Not now while they are looking. We forgive him for what he did. He will always be one of us. But we can’t forget. Not now. And for that reason he should go. He should go and come to us. He should go and live with his family again.